What comes after the battle for Aleppo?

The UN Security Council has passed a unanimous resolution to send observers to Aleppo. They are to oversee the evacuation that was resumed on Monday. The veto powers won't be able to save face wit this action, journalists criticise, and explain certain motives behind the evacuation plans.

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Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

A failed attempt to save face

Even after the UN resolution the five permanent members of the Security Council won't be able to make up for the previous lack of action, the taz rails:

“Russia and China on one side; the US backed by France on the UK on the other. With their egoistic and conflicting interests they have ensured that the global organisation's highest body wasn't able to fulfil its primary responsibility to 'maintain and restore international peace and security', as stated in the UN Charter, for five years full of suffering. The attempt to save face has, however, failed. This is true for the Putin government and its brutal air strikes against military and civilian targets over the last 14 months. But also the Obama administration's years of backing Islamist opposition militias in Syria, some of which had ties to the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation, has prolonged and escalated this terrible civil war that has claimed so many victims.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Refugees used as political pawns

Večernji list explains the logic behind Ankara and Moscow's evacuation plans:

“Turkey and Russia have agreed on which direction the evacuation should take. The plan is that firstly the refugees will be used to destabilise the Islamists in the Idlib region, which could lead to more deaths and destruction. And then another selection process will take place. The rebel fighters among the refugees will remain while the refugees whom they are absolutely certain are civilians will be allowed to leave this war zone and brought to the Syrian-Turkish border area between Jarabulus and Afrin, which is controlled by the Turkish army. But it is only seemingly a safe place for the refugees because they are to serve as a kind of buffer for the Turks there and prevent Syrian Kurds from entering the area.”

Deutschlandfunk Kultur (DE) /

Protect civilians with military means if need be

It is high time the West adopted a new strategy for protecting the civilian population in view of the catastrophic situation in Aleppo, Deutschlandradio Kultur urges:

“So far our military involvement in Syria has had fatal consequences. The West's strategy of fighting the IS and ignoring Assad's crimes is creating more and more terrorists each day. At the same time we are betraying our principles. Because while we fight the IS terror without a UN mandate, we insist that we need just such a mandate to protect civilians. ... What we need for dealing with war crimes like those in Syria is a new guiding principle. Intervene, yes, if need be militarily, but not in our own interests, not for oil and not to topple regimes, but exclusively to protect civilians on location. ... What sounds like military escalation would in fact be the first step out of the spiral of violence. Because as soon as the bombardment of civilians started triggering concrete repercussions Assad would have to rethink his surrender-or-die strategy.”

Le Monde (FR) /

West must offer Syrians a new home

The West most certainly can help the residents of Aleppo, writes Mego Terzian, president of Doctors Without Borders France, in Le Monde:

“In this rush to retake Aleppo at any cost we must continue to urge the warring parties to allow civilians to escape without risking their lives. ... We must demand the immediate re-establishment of the right to flee, enabling the civilian population to find refuge in a location where it is not at permanent risk of being bombed and massacred. To that end Turkey must open its borders. And to encourage it to do that the countries of the West must also send a strong signal, declaring their willingness to be much more generous in taking in the Syrians whose fate in Aleppo they so deplore than they have been in the past.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Division of the country the best option

Syria needs to be restructured according to current political and ethnic divisions, The Irish Times recommends:

“The sheer scale of its destructiveness makes it unlikely the country can be reassembled as it was five years ago. Too many lives have been lost and people scattered for that to be possible, especially under Assad. Nor is it clear yet whether his opponents are sufficiently demoralised by this defeat or exhausted with the conflict to see it end soon. All this will play out in the year to come. Among the more realistic options is a far looser political structure reflecting current political and ethnic divisions. An alternative complete reorganisation of the regional order carved out of competing empires a century ago would certainly prolong the wars for decades to come.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Aleppo is free

Contradicting mainstream opinion in Western media the Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo, Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, says Aleppo has been liberated, Večernji list points out:

“The vicar said he is happy that the Syrian army has taken control of the occupied districts and asserted that all of the rebel groups in Aleppo without exception 'belong to the galaxy of Islamic fundamentalism'. They want to force a form of fanaticism on the people of Syria that is completely foreign to their traditions, he believes. Such messages on the part of the Christian churches should open the eyes of mainstream commentators who see the epilogue of the war in Syria as a defeat for Western democracy, because such views are simply wrong. The West must first save its own democracy by subjecting it to a deep moral catharsis.”

El País (ES) /

Moscow and Tehran will fight over Syria

The situation will change radically after Assad's victory in Aleppo, Islam expert Luz Gómez predicts in El País:

“In the history of wars it is often the case that a battle at the end decides the whole conflict. … And sadly the battle of Aleppo will go down in history as the one that ended the Syrian revolution. … Therefore we should remember that the Syrian revolution was a popular uprising, peaceful and even joyful on the streets. That the people rose up against the dictatorship and Assad's oligarchy. That the regime knew from the start that it would soon be toppled if it didn't internationalise and Islamise the conflict. And it succeeded in doing so. … Today Syria faces a grim future dominated by Assad, the dictator against whom the people rebelled. But that future won't bring the stability the West dreams of, not even in its Trump-Putin version. … The Assad of the future will be held to ransom by those who won the battle of Aleppo, Russia and Iran, which will fight each other for control of a destroyed country.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Jackals have pounced on the country

International plans to restructure the entire region are behind the disaster in Aleppo and all Syria, writes Milliyet:

“This human tragedy that has been playing out on the international stage for five years now should be interpreted as a plan for the Balkanisation of the Middle East. … It is a plan to divide it up like the Balkans and create new, small states. Divide and rule! Dozens of organisations and small and large states pounced on Syria like a pack of jackals on the body of a wounded lion. And everyone wants a piece of the pie. There is talk of dividing the country up into at least four parts, of creating four states. In the burned out, ravaged ghost cities where people lived together peacefully until five years ago the superpowers and middling powers have exploited religious and ethnic differences to turn them against each other. To create smaller and larger spheres of influence.”

Zeit Online (DE) /

Further sanctions against Russia needed

In view of the events in Aleppo the West must impose further sanctions on Russia, Zeit Online demands:

“In particular the financial market sanctions imposed in reaction to the annexation of Crimea deterred Putin from occupying more territory in Ukraine. And what prevented an even worse scenario in Ukraine might also work in Syria. … Because the apocalypse in Aleppo wasn't an automatic process. Perhaps it could have been prevented if the consequences of continuing to ignore human rights had been clear to Russia's bombers. … It's a myth that Russia only engaged in the war in Syria to fight the IS. The goal of the Kremlin in Syria is clear: to prop up Assad even if it costs hundreds or thousands of civilian lives. In Putin's power politics, such numbers don't count. But what would make the Russian autocrat stop and think are clear consequences for further war crimes.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Call Assad to account

The Assad regime will be called to account one day, NRC Handelsblad hopes:

“While the Americans and Russians were working out a ceasefire, Assad - with the help of the selfsame Russians - fired up the war machine and transgressed one moral boundary after the next. ... It is an international disgrace that Assad has been able to take this path unhindered. In the year 2016 it is still possible for a leader to have hundreds of thousands of his own people murdered without anyone trying to stop him as long as he has the support of one UN veto power. Nothing is left of the grandiose global ideals of peace, security and solidarity. Is the international community powerless? No. It can help by recording this wrongdoing in the hope that at one point someone will be held to account.”

Delo (SI) /

Who is the real winner in Aleppo?

The favourable outcome for Syrian president Assad is explained as follows by Delo:

“He managed to get the global power (Russia) and the regional power (Iran) on his side. … At the same time the key battle for Aleppo came at a tie when the players on the strategic chessboard who were against Assad were occupied with their own problems: the US with its new boss in White House and the EU with its decline. … But who is the real winner of the fight for Aleppo which is supposed to decide the outcome of the war? Assad, who celebrates his victory on top of a huge pile of rubble? Or his foreign sponsors, who have demonstrated that proxy war is (still) a valuable instrument for the most powerful?”

Libération (FR) /

Indignation has long since died down

All the initiatives aimed at defending human rights and protecting the civil population in Syria have been neutralised, Libération laments:

“The hypocritical strategists of cynicism have achieved what they wanted: the men, women and children in Aleppo can die miserable deaths and no one is lifting a finger to help them. ... The public is disappointed and confused by the systematic false information disseminated by the lie-mongers of far-right and far-left dictators. The martyrdom of Aleppo may provoke indignation, but such feelings lack any dynamism. And without the prompting of civil society, the governments won't take diplomatic risks. Once the defenders of human dignity have been neutralised in this way, the era of cold-blooded monsters is returning.”

The Irish Independent (IE) /

Rebels are criminals, not victims

The image of the brutal Assad regime on the one side and the heroic defenders of eastern Aleppo on the other is false, columnist Robert Fisk writes in The Irish Independent:

“Yes, Bashar al-Assad has brutally destroyed vast tracts of his cities in his battle against those who wish to overthrow his regime. Yes, that regime has a multitude of sins to its name: torture, executions, secret prisons, the killing of civilians. ... But it's time to tell the other truth: that many of the 'rebels' whom we in the West have been supporting are among the cruellest and most ruthless of fighters in the Middle East. And while we have been tut-tutting at the frightfulness of Isil during the siege of Mosul, we have been wilfully ignoring the behaviour of the rebels of Aleppo.”

Politiken (DK) /

Failed attempt to protect Aleppo's civilians

The international community has learned nothing from the civilian massacres of the past, Politiken complains:

“After the genocide in Rwanda the world promised that there would be an end to looking on as bloodbaths are committed before our eyes. The global community developed the term 'responsibility to protect'. But international principles are only as strong as the nations that back them. ... Helpless innocent civilians are once again paying the price for the abuses of despots and the powerlessness of the West's major powers. No one has a clear picture of the events in Aleppo or of what should have been done differently. But the tragedy is immense. The fall of Aleppo can alter the international context in the search for a solution to the war. Let's hope that the victims are never forgotten in the process.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Aleppo a symbol of the West's failure

How could the world let the people in Aleppo feel so abandoned? Lidové noviny asks:

“Every big war has its symbol. For years the Syrian symbol has been Aleppo. Such symbols are a reminder that most of the victims of wars are civilians, including children. Pictures of children in particular provoke emotions and protests. … The case of Aleppo is the result of the change of course in America. The West has harshly criticised the bloodshed on the battlefield and the cruelty of the Assad regime. But it denied itself the only possibility of stopping all this - an invasion like that in Iraq in 2003. That invasion has always been viewed as a manifestation of bad policy. But the case of Aleppo shows what the alternative to that bad policy looks like.”

De Standaard (BE) /

New world order emerging in Aleppo

The fact that Moscow agreed to a ceasefire in Aleppo could be a sign that Putin is susceptible to international pressure after all, De Standaard argues:

“Apparently Putin has been persuaded that there must be a limit to cynicism. Perhaps he has had a chat with his new friends. The US will have a new Secretary of State with close ties to Putin. The future president may well have him to thank for his presidency. And if François Fillon takes over in France, the Kremlin chief will also have a supporter in Europe. This is the same Putin who broke the resistance in Aleppo together with Iran, Hezbullah and the Shiite militias. The new world order is a bitter pill to swallow.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

The weapons will not be silenced

Despite the complete recapture of the northern Syrian city by the government troops the war will go on, Il Sole 24 Ore predicts:

“Even after the fall of Aleppo the conflict retains its maximum explosive potential geopolitically: the IS is the target of all the coalitions engaged in the battle but in reality the goal is to divide the heart of the Middle East into zones of influence. … Moscow has established a kind of 'protectorate' in Syria. The US still has Iraq. Turkey can count on Putin's permission to subjugate the Kurds. ... And the local players can continue to butcher each other as long as they don't get in the way of the rulers of the zones of influence. There is no sign of peace, only the prospect of a less intense conflict. Like the thousand-day siege of Sarajevo, the battle for Aleppo has inflicted a wound on the country from which it will hardly recover.”

More opinions

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) / 14 December 2016
  Like Rwanda, Srebrenica and Grozny (in German)